What is backflow and why should you care about preventing it?
What is Backflow?
Backflow, by definition, is the reversal of the flow of water or a mixture of water and other liquids, gases, or other substances into the distribution pipes of the potable water supply. There are two ways for backflow to occur. The first way that backflow can occur is back siphonage. Back siphonage is the reversal of water flow due to a drop in the water pressure on the supply side. The most common cause of back siphonage is a water main break. The second cause of backflow is back pressure. What is back pressure? It is when the pressure in the downstream piping rises above the supply pressure of the system, allowing downstream substances to be pushed into the potable water supply. Common causes of back pressure include pump systems and elevated tanks.
How can backflow affect you?
If the proper precautions are not taken, backflow can pose a serious threat to public health. There are many documented cases of contaminants invading the public drinking water through backflow problems, causing illness, disease, and even death. Some examples of this are the 1985 Salmonella outbreak affecting 100,000 people in the Chicago area and a case in 1976 in Philadelphia in which there was an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease. Other common sources of contamination include chemical plants, RV parks, mortuaries, laundromats, dairy processing facilities, floral and garden nurseries and car washes.
How can dangerous backflow be prevented?
Mechanical backflow prevention devices and assemblies offer the best protection against cross connection hazards, and are required by law. The Illinois plumbing code states “All premises intended for human habitation or occupancy shall be provided with a potable water supply. The potable water supply shall not be connected to non-potable water and shall be protected from backflow and back siphonage."
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